Huskies coach knew about player’s pending sex assault charge

A headshot of U of S Huskies head volleyball head coach Brian Gavlas. -- University of Saskatchewan Huskies volleyball website

Prince Albertan Matthew Meyer pleaded guilty Monday in Alberta court

A volleyball player accused of sexually assaulting a woman in Medicine Hat, Alta. in 2016 was allowed to join the University of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s volleyball team for its 2017-18 season, despite the head coach’s knowledge about the allegations.

Matthew Alan Meyer of Prince Albert pleaded guilty to the allegations Monday in Court of Queen’s Bench in Medicine Hat. When he joined the Huskies squad last year, the charges were not yet proven in court.

According to Peggy Revell of the Medicine Hat News, on Monday, Meyer pleaded guilty to twice sexually assaulting a passed out female Medicine Hat College student at a house party on Jan. 17, 2016. He also pleaded guilty to photographing her during each assault. At the time of the assault, he was a member of the college’s Rattlers volleyball team.

He was freed on bail and left the college voluntarily after the charges were laid, Revell reported.

Meyer’s statistics page on the U of S Huskies volleyball website shows that he accumulated stats in 18 U-Sports games this past season. The earliest game was Sept. 27, 2017; the latest game was Feb. 17 this year.

After his guiltily plea, Meyer was sentenced to two years in prison and three years probation. His sentence includes taking courses about sexual assault prevention.

Reached by the Daily Herald on Tuesday afternoon, head coach Brian Gavlas said he didn’t have any comment to make about Meyer’s guilty plea.

“I was aware of the charge, yes. I wasn’t aware of what was happening,” he said. “We had talked briefly about the situation. We didn’t go into a lot of detail.”

Gavlas also explained his decision process in allowing Meyer to join his team for this past season.

“When we discussed the possibility of being a part of our team and our program, we discussed certain aspects and certain expectations, and what might be best for him individually and what might be good for our team in regards to having him involved.

“It became a choice and decision that for his time during this past year it would be best for him to be supported and part of a passion and a sport that he enjoyed and a group of guys that could support him,” the coach said.

“No where along the lines did we take anything that had happened in the past into account with his involvement with our team.”

On Tuesday evening, the U of S emailed a statement to the Daily Herald from Huskies chief athletics officer Shawn Burt.

“I recently became aware of a conviction concerning a member of our Huskie Athletics Men’s Volleyball team this afternoon. We take the matter extremely seriously, as the type of conduct associated with this incident is not reflective of our values as an athletic program or university.

“Huskie Athletics has immediately removed the individual from the team roster, and the circumstances will be reviewed under the Huskie Athletics Code of Conduct.

“The University will be launching an internal investigation into how this individual was able to compete as a Huskie athlete,” Burt said.

Gavlas added that he’s known Meyer since he was a 16-year-old high school student. (The volleyball player attended Prince Albert’s Carlton high school, but Gavlas did not allude to this point.)

“He was involved with our prospects camps, he was involved with provincial teams; I’ve coached him.

“And he made a very bad choice and decision with his actions and what he did for one night. And it’s cost him dearly,” the Huskies coach said.

“It’s obviously cost the victim – please don’t get me wrong; I’m not being flippant about that situation, but I think people who are in my position have to do everything they can to give young adults and teenagers an opportunity to grow and develop and improve on their character and improve on their choices and improve on their lifestyles, whatever the case is.

“So anything that we can do to help support those people I think is pretty important.”

According to Gavlas’ coaching bio on the U of S Huskies’ website, he took over the school’s men’s volleyball program as head coach in 1992, replacing Tom Graham. He’s a member of the Saskatchewan Volleyball Association’s High Performance Committee, CIS Coaches Association and the Canadian Coaches Association.

He said nothing was normal “in regards to the situation or the practice or where (Meyer) was in his life. As I said, he was a student, he was taking classes, and he had the ability and the opportunity to be involved with our team and our program.

“We had talked briefly about the situation. We didn’t go into a lot of detail.

“From my perspective as a coach and as a father, I thought being involved with our team and our program would be best at this particular stage in his life,” he said.

Asked if he was worried about having someone accused of sexual assault join his team, he said, “I would be concerned about the perception that would be out there for sure.

“My major concern was for him individually as a young adult and what this mistake in his life is causing him or costing him, and what we could do to make sure that the path forward is the best possible path forward.”